State would offer dollars to improve safety systems in schools
By Marc Kovac
The state would provide districts with up to $100,000 annually to improve safety systems in their schools, under legislation being considered by the Ohio Senate.
Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, offered Senate Bill 92 after hearing from teachers and law enforcement officials in his district, as part of roundtable discussions several years ago.
“While most superintendents, principals and local police officers are aware of the proper protocols to protect their students in the case of an emergency, they feel that they do not have the adequate resources in place to execute their plan,” Schiavoni told the Senate’s Finance Committee Tuesday. “School districts are doing their best to get the most out of every dollar, and at the end of the day, paying for additional staff, such as security guards, counselors and resource officers, is very difficult for districts to afford.”
The legislation was one of several school funding-related bills heard by senators, who returned to the Statehouse this week for committee hearings and one floor session. The legislature won’t be back in full-fledged session mode until after the November election.
SB 92 calls for $34 million to be allocated in both fiscal years of the current biennium, for use by schools working to improve their security.
The state board of education would develop the application process for schools interested in receiving the grants, which would be disbursed based on enrollment size – districts with fewer than 1,000 students could get up to $25,000, while those with 10,000 more could get up to $100,000.
“SB 92 would not be a cure-all in preventing all school-related tragedies,” Schiavoni said. “But it will allow our school districts to put plans into place that will created safer learning environments in our classrooms and school buildings.”
The legislation has not been on a fast track for passage in the Republican-controlled chamber, however. Schiavoni introduced the bill in early 2015, and Tuesday’s hearing was its first before a Senate committee.
A separate Republican-sponsored bill, SB 326, also had its first hearing before Senate Finance Tuesday. It would require the Ohio School Facilities Commission to establish a process for districts that have not yet received Classroom Facilities Assistance Program funds to apply for state assistance for building improvements, including safety and security measures.
Schiavoni also offered sponsor testimony Tuesday on his SB 93, which would provide grants for middle schools implementing anti-bullying programs. The legislation would provide grants of up to $10,000, depending on enrollment size.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see harmful effects of bullying in schools, not only in my district but throughout the state,” Schiavoni said. “After talking to the students, parents, teachers and school administrators, it is clear that this is a problem we need to take seriously. The goal of this legislation is to prevent these incidents from occurring and ensure that school districts have the flexibility to decide how they want to enhance their existing policies that would best impact their student population.”